Category Archives: conflict resolution

NOVELLA


A red moon raised a tide of blood against the rocky shore. It tore away at the edges of the cliffs and beaches from the great ports of Musuri and Arikamedu, all the way to the eastern reaches of the great kingdom of Kamboja. His mind raced through its paces as his lungs screamed for air. This crimson storm had engulfed his dear Madurai! Hopes and dreams swelled towards his arms, but he could not grasp them to defend them against the swirling current. Bubbles floated towards the surface as he struggled to breathe; grasping at his throat, he fought to get to the surface. He was no longer clad in armor, but his sword was still with him.
But it was not metal that made his body so heavy.
Something else was dragging him down.
But not to Madurai.
The mighty spires of a great city rose out of the swelling sea of red. The heavily carved and brightly painted stone towers of a mighty kovil were slowly pulling themselves out of the muck of the abyss. The recognizable form of the Rajendra Chola Madil, the titanic outer walls of the great capital of Gangaikonda, was fast approaching. They powered through like a battle cruiser slicing efficiently through the waves of the ocean, ready to disgorge its bloodthirsty warriors onto a new land.
Gangaikonda Cholapuram!
He had been there so many times! Now, in this accursed aquatic hell, it towered over Madurai as the demonic goliath Kumbhakaran had over Lord Shri Ram during the long- lost glory of the Treta Yuga, thousands of years ago when the gods still walked on Earth. His dear hometown shrunk away under the shadow of the all-consuming behemoth. He slashed at the figures adorning the huge kovil, but the steel could not cut through the stone monster.
Tears rose in Rudran’s eyes, and a thunder called Heartache rumbled in his chest.
His eyes turned into floodgates that spewed forth their contents as his head spun. He was dizzy to the point of vomiting as the images of blood and death spun around him. The arms of Madurai struggled to hold her citizens and he could hear her screaming in agony as she disappeared down the throat of the advancing giant.
From her tanks and wells, blood shot forth instead of water, polluting her streets as she blindly rushed into the gaping maw of the predator.
No words came to his throat and his grip on his sword was almost loosened.
“My lord Vishnu…I beg you…stop this nightmare! Release me from this suffering, please!” Even his prayer felt like the trembling stammer of an old beggar, dying finally of the plague that poisoned his blood.
The only other voice he heard, was one that hovered above him. It was deep, but did not sound cruel. It was merely a knowledgeable one, one that sounded truthful and powerful.
“My friend,” it told him, “you are more at home with us than in your own house. Don’t deceive yourself, my dear man. Please don’t. Come back with me, take my hand. We can become conquering heroes one day once this is finished.”
“No…”
“We can go to the far east. To Sri Vijaya, where the greatest sailors and fighters once existed. We can be free to travel the world, my dear friend…”
“No…”
“Why else did you join?”
“NO!!!”
Rudran struggled  and fought fiercely as he attempted to rise from the bed. He cast about wildly, clad in nothing more than his loincloth as he gasped out, bathed in a shower of cold sweat.
“Rudran! Sir, are you alright?”
“Show yourself!” he yelled, suddenly leaping off the bed.
“I heard you scream, Rudran. Are you alright?”
Rudran groaned as he saw the person at the door.  “Vishaka…”
He cussed under his breath on forgetting to lock the door. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I just got a bit startled, that’s all.”
“No, tell me.” She pushed him to speak, at which he groaned in anger. “Are you alright? Because this is the fourth night in a row. What’s going on?” He tried his best not to glance up at the kind, motherly face of Lankan beauty who tried to talk to him. But the light from her candle alighted in his eyes, as gently as a compassionate kiss. He could sense the air heating up as he tried to cover his near-nakedness with his sheet, the same heat pulsing through his own body as he attempted to avert his gaze.
He stared at the tiled floor.
A small crack had appeared on the ceramic surface of one of them, but all he could still see was her beautiful reflection within them. His heart wept silently. Yet her angelic warmth enveloped the room, as his ears strained to hear her gentle voice.
“Forget it Vishaka, please…and, look, I’m sorry if I sound rude. But my past is none of your business. If the gods want me to suffer”-he shot her a rather stern, but still haggard look-“let them! I’ve given up, and so should you.”
Another shout came from inside the house.
“Mother! Mother, what’s going on?”
She turned suddenly to see him at the door too.  He looked strangely exhausted, sweating just as Rudran had been. “What are you doing out of bed? Please go back to sleep, Jayampati. I can handle things here.”
“Oh, right,” the boy snorted, “the great soldier with night terrors. Look, why don’t you wake up already? It’s already the crack of dawn, plus you’ve just been leeching off us for the past week. If this was my own house, I’d”-

“He’s our guest!” chided his mother. “Rudran,” she continued, changing her tone. “I’ll be having some priests over tomorrow. Why don’t you talk to them about your nightmares? I’m sure they can help you. Anyway, I think it’d be good for you to talk to someone, and there’s nobody better than the bhikkus at the Mahiyangana Temple. You know, you could even talk to me if you want. I know what a soldier’s mind is like, I mean, I’m…married to one…” Her smile waned slowly as she blew out her candle. “Never mind. If you want to sleep in, it’s fine with me. Son, don’t make a fuss. You brought him here, so it’s our responsibility to see to him.” 
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NOVELLA

(In the absence of any other posts, here I carry on work with the historical.)

He got up and stood by the window, leaning heavily against the sill. The Brihadisvarar Temple’s vast tower seemed like a distant giant to him, looming over the misty morning sky. It was chilly and he promptly put a cloak over his shoulders.
Then he felt warmth flooding the muscles of his back, as Minakshi hugged him, running her hands down his torso, gently drawing his cloak off.
He breathed deeply, “Thanjavur is covered in this wet, cold blanket.”
“I know. Come now my dear. You told me you liked…a certain type of women with a certain type of power…well,” her eyes glinted naughtily as she turned his head slowly towards hers to kiss him, “let me be that woman for just this morning.”

“Please no. You’re not that type of woman Minakshi. And you’ll never be.”

“What is with you? I mean, does that mean we’re now over?”

“When we married, our love was real, untainted,” he replied gravely, “but now there’s something else. You have to move on from me. Just…put your clothes on for now, alright? There’s nothing you can do to make me stay. She has put a manacle around my ankle, and her powerful chain is beckoning me! It’s a spell! I can’t live a day without seeing her.”
Minakshi’s look darkened as she sat on the bed, legs crossed, hands firmly over her breasts. She bit her lip so hard that she bled, and almost teared up. Yet she fought back all sense of feelings of the pain of separation. Brahmarajan saw her body shivering, but he battled the urge to touch her. Minakshi promptly covered herself with her the sheets and looked at him with the corner of her eye.

“We are both in power when we make love, and…”

“Shut up for just a moment, would you? If you want so badly to see this woman, why don’t you get out at this moment?” she snapped, crying. “Just….go to her without rubbing in my face the fact that our relationship was doomed to fail! Get out! And don’t tell me you and she have a child”-she glanced briefly at him and he looked away-“oh damn you! How long have you been doing this?” Minakshi was screaming now, voice at a fierce, shrill pitch as she bared her teeth and her eyes glowed with anger.
He shouted, “Three years, alright? I met her three years ago! And now, a month ago you became pregnant with our second child! But no, I’m sorry I won’t be around to see it. And I won’t be around for Sivapalan. I must leave so that I can be there for my new family. Let me go Minakshi! If you really love me you’ll let me go.” She was stunned. So this was what love was, to love a man, to be with him and to have a family with him.

Were all men the same?

Were all…people the same?

This was not the Brahmarajan she knew. She felt a slight glow of warmth shining through the mist covering the city. The Temple’s spire dominated the skyline, somehow calling her back to it, to immerse herself once more in dance and permanent devotion to gods she didn’t even believe in. She covered her face with her hands as she sank into heavily onto the bed. Her own deity, her beautiful Bodhisattva, had been no help at all.

Minakshi didn’t say a word  all through the morning. She did the daily tasks even after her husband had left. She tried to be the proud, fierce and powerful woman she knew herself to be as she lifted her head away from the steam of the cooking fire on the clay hearth.
But the chickpea masala-the meal for the afternoon, which she felt like making now to distract herself-felt to her like something out of time. She saw no sense of beauty in it, the rich tang of spices that her maid had brought in when she came to work in the morning. Thus Minakshi stared eternally into the pot, and then remembered something.

Sivapalan!

No, he had been at her brother’s house.
The ex-Brahman priest.

“So we’re all giving up something in our lives,” she mused as she dropped the black peppers and cardamons into the pot, sprinkling them liberally over the chickpeas. The same way that the memory called Brahmarajan used to have them.

Novella

(Back on it once more. After such a lengthy wait, here’s more of my historical work. Hope it’s likable. This is where their relationship starts getting more and more strained, and we will know who is responsible for it too.)

Minakshi put her hand on Ishwari’s shoulder with a sigh. “It’s the life you chose, and it’s the life I chose too. Honestly, it’s not too bad. Now leave me alone, please, I’ve had a hard day as it is.”
They looked each other in the eye again, and she saw Ishwari’s nipples swelling against her blouse, straining painfully as her gaze intensified.
Minakshi backed up a few steps.
Ishwari’s eyes wouldn’t peel away.
She wrapped her arms around her companion’s waist, pulling her closer, and feeling the tender skin around her navel against Minakshi’s own.
“One day,” she breathed dreamily as the other devadasi struggled to break away, reaching for the wall.
She gripped Minakshi’s hair suddenly, quick as a viper, but the latter screamed, strongly pushing the smaller woman away with all her might. She stood erect as Ishwari paced around, hunger and desperation in her dark eyes, nostrils flared and wet from excitement.
“Right, right,” she quickly added, looking down with a quick breath. “I’ll just…I’ll…go now…? Yeah…”
Hastily, the dancer exited the room.
Minakshi, still confused, left too. She would have no peace that night, she knew…
Rising up in a trice, she nearly flung herself out of the bed, the flurry of sheets flapping about her like wings.
“Damned nightmares.”
Shaking her head a few times, Minakshi sat up in bed, and looked around the room. It was a cloud of pitch darkness, and she tumbled out of bed, groping the air a few times before doing so. Her forehead bled, and suddenly a jolt of memory struck her. It hurt her at first when it shot inside but somehow her son screamed, his own forehead dripping blood.
The crimson liquid was pooling around his feet as he knelt down, crying.
Tears and blood mixed up in a salty red puddle on the floor as the massive hand swooped down, a primal monster with open jaws…
“Mother!! Mother!” Sivapalan sounded frightened.  She had forgotten that he was playing in the dance-room. Yet, to her disbelief, his tone began to alter, growing in depth, turning into something alien and menacing.
A familiar voice started to slur something in a drunken rage and the little boy stared, wide-eyed in horror as a familiar pair of eyes glinted with a raptorial sheen…
  
The loud creak of the front door bolted her senses back into focus.
She walked quickly into the dance-room and spotted Sivapalan. Looking at him, she saw that he looked frightened, possessed almost. Eyes wide, he gripped the periyazh with trembling hands. Now even she had reason to be terrified.
“My son? What’s…what’s wrong with you? Dear are you alright?” He hid his face between the instrument and the wall. A child’s fears, she knew, could either be for the most irrelevant thing or for something so realistic that even the bravest man could be unnerved beyond his limits. Right now she was unable to tell what he was so scared of. “Sivapalan, please!” Reaching out for him, she bent down, but her musical instrument fell with a loud bang and he rushed to another corner of the room.
He quaked with fear.
Never before had she seen such a mask of pure horror on anyone’s face.
Especially when her husband walked into the dance-room.
“What the…is this the sort of time you choose to come home? How long were you going to spend at your soldier friends’ houses anyway? I can’t just stay alone in this house, in this city I…I mean, heaven knows what kind of wretches rule Thanjavur at this hour, I…” She felt like going on and on, but all she got was a stare that was, half vacancy stemming from illness and half dark and hellish cruelty.
He glanced piercingly at her, fixing his stare as if she was his opponent on the battlefield.
“Speak to me! Are you alright?”
He leaned heavily against the wall as she watched his gaze. One minute his eyes were scanning her with deadly bloodlust and the other, at Sivapalan cowering in the corner. Now even she had reason to reach for the walls. But it was like they had achieved a life of their own and strained against the chains of the worldly laws that bound these four walls to their task of protection. Demonic possession held the whole house captive now, it seemed, and she was unable to shake off the feeling.
Minakshi began to circle slowly around the place.
She watched her man as a frightened pariah dog would stalk gently around a large, meaty bone, wondering if the person who held it had a knife behind his back. Every so often, the wetness of saliva flooded her mouth, rolling down her throat as she tried to fight back every instinct to aggravate him. For he certainly looked like he was about to grab something from his sash.

“Brahmarajan…”

Unity Camp 6: Killinochchi – The Experience of a Lifetime

Shortly after graduating from college in a great move by the universe I was invited to be a part of Ekamuthu Orray Makkal Unity Mission Trust (for those confused by the first three words; Ekamuthu’ is Sinhalese for ‘Unity’ and ‘Oray Makkal’ is Tamil for ‘One People’)

The Unity Mission Trust has been in existence since May 2009 and is a non-profit Trust that is dedicated to fostering unity, integration, healing and reconciliation between the teenagers and young adults in the Wanni area and their peers from all over Sri Lanka.

 This October from the 17th to the 20th I joined the crew that piled into 3 buses, 2 vans – as head of the Media and Publicity Team. 500 student leaders aged 15-20, and 40 teachers from 70 schools all the way from Jaffna to Matara gathered at Killinochchi Central College (KCC) for Unity Camp 6. The Camp works on the basis of separating the students from their friends and placing them in groups with others, some of whom don’t even speak the same language. Together they compete in drama, dance, music, art, sports, and speech, overcoming whatever racial barriers that might have separated them before. I am not going to launch into the details of the program etc – you can find out everything you need to know about what the kids did here. What I am going to do is try to articulate the feelings that stir the depths of your soul when you realize that 4 days can change lives, bring people together, that there is hope.

Being a part of the team that undertakes projects of such a scale is another experience in itself. Logistics for nearly 600 people to sleep, eat, and carry out the camp itself in Killinochchi took up much of the teams free time for months. This is an entirely volunteer run organization – not one of us who stayed up, sometimes past midnight organizing, packing, planning, doing files, raising funds – are paid. It’s done for a greater reason upon which no value can be placed. Then comes the day when at 5am we pile into buses and drive to Killinochchi with stops along the way to pick up people, stretch our legs and finally you arrive. No resting – 500 students need to be registered and the hall prepared for the opening ceremony, buses and lorries need to be unloaded, and students need to be prevented from switching groups. The opening ceremony runs with a showcase of talents and then comes the tough part – the students are placed in their groups and the organizing committee does some switching around to ensure they are mixed up as throughly as possible. There are tears and resisting, but we are firm. After the rules are reviewed and the students briefed, dinner is served. The committee has no time to rest – after ensuring dinner is handled, the girls round up the female students and chaperone them to Killinochchi Maha Vidayalaya where their sleeping quarters are. In the meantime the boys check to ensure the dorms and sleeping arrangements at KCC are sorted, and once the students are settled the team sits down for a meeting. Those not staying at either of the schools with the students head off to the army camps, which have been generously offered by the Sri Lankan Army to us. This is usually close upon midnight.

The next day begins at 8.30am after breakfast when everyone gathers back at KCC with a Music Session to get everyone in the mood, headed by our Musical Director Rukshan Perera. Over the next few days team members run non-stop working tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the numerous activities, challenges and mountains of work that comes with such a project. But through it all the most amazing experience is watching the students slowly form bonds with one another. They turn from the nervous, uncomfortable faced girls and boys that sit – near-silent, awkwardly smiling with one another, to hugging and crying on the fourth day when they are leaving. One has to see this with their own eyes to realize that four days can break barriers, that the youth has a lack of inhibition when it comes to embracing new opportunities and really are the hope of our nation.

The talent that comes from them blows you away. They sing, dance, act, create, speak, excel athletically, – all with just a few hours at most to prepare. Trophies are awarded to the most outstanding group leaders, campers, and based on a points system – a winning group emerges. But nothing touches your heart like the very end of camp. Students who speak about their experiences at the open forum begin to cry, overcome by emotion. They hug their new found friends and have to be nearly forced to board the buses. You realize that human connections are beyond language, race, religion, soci-economic backgrounds, gender, and any of these limitations we place upon ourselves.

You watch the candle ceremony and can’t hold back your tears when you see a sea of light shining back. This light is carried by remarkable young men and women who sing our national anthem with pride and then chant in one voice “Sri Lanka” repeatedly.

You realize that the future of our country has hope, the dream of one people is tangibly close to a reality.

You realize that you are a part of a much bigger picture – but what you can do in your small capacity can make real change. Sometimes we need to step out of our little bubbles and start releasing the potential we harbor.

We can do so much more than just talk, and more than can – we need to. The change we leave behind is the real legacy we leave. Not how popular you were, how much money you made, how big your CV and accomplishments were – but by how many lives you touched and transformed.

Anger management-Part 1



Anger

We give it different names. Whether you call it rage, frustration, fury or indignation, it was the subliminal force that drove people to extremes of violence that bathed our island in blood. It is the force you deal with every day, whether you feel outraged after a passing car decorates your immaculate white shirt with splotches of mud or when a colleague yells at you for no reason at all.

Anger: Is it useless, needed to some extent, or essential? 
Let me ask that question in another way. Is fever useless, needed to some extent, or essential? Do I hear you saying “Oh! Fever? Feeling uncomfortable for days on end? You call that “necessary”?” Yet scientifically, fever is a symptom which can help us to detect life-threatening diseases early on. It is a defense mechanism of the body. Therefore fever is essential. 
Similarly, anger is essential. When we feel angry, it indicates that either we or others are not meeting the standards we have in our minds. If you don’t feel angry, other people would walk all over you and you would never be the best you can be.
To put it in brief, feelingangry is completely all right; it is our reaction that we should look out for.
Whenever you sense this feeling creeping up on you, first of all, accept that you are feeling angry. Then ask yourself why you feel so. Fine, your sister grabbed that last piece of cake from your hands. Is it reasonable enough to yell and make a scene?  For every situation, ask yourself whether you can tolerate it. Is it just the way your sister is? Perhaps it is just because your standards and the other person’s standards differ. What may be outrageous to you would be completely acceptable to another.
 If you feel that you cannot tolerate the other, then it is time for an open discussion. By that I mean a conversation where both parties get to have their say and not a tearing-your-hair-out-name-calling-stomping-around session. In an open discussion, both parties should strive to reach a middle ground. If it was a debate, you would lose whether you win or not. When you win, you do not learn anything and your relationship is damaged, sometimes forever. When you lose, you learn something; yet once again your bond maybe ruined beyond repair.
In the next article, we would be looking at the ill effects of anger and how we can control it.

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 12

The twelfth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).  

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Understanding both rights and responsibilities contributes to social harmony. Responsible use of power is a component of this understanding. Power is often given a meaning of one’s advantage over another in a violent, forceful, persuasive manner. However this is not always the case. Some types of power are easy to see and comprehend while other types are much more difficult. We will discuss the types of power later. Power is not an inert thing that some possess. Power exists in relationships. It can be defined as the ability to have an impact on the world. Responsible use of power is central to the development of a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic society.
What comes to my mind when I hear the word power; is the ability to have control over a community by means of working together or dictatorship. Thus power has a positive as well as negative side. For example our parents, school administration, office administration and the national administration have power over us. We feel powerless at moments when we face these groups of people. On the other hand if we are leaders in schools, the students under us would feel powerless when they interact with us.  A good leader would strive hard to control the society by means of working with the people instead of attempting to suppress the people. We often get confused with the terms power and strength. Simply we can define strength as the talents within a person and power as the work the society gives to an individual after identifying the talents. While strength is not something someone can give you, power is transferable. Strength is not internal. It shows people who you are. Power is the ability to do something you possibly cannot do alone. It is also the ability to control and influence others.  
A leader in power has a big responsibility of using the power to benefit others and build peace and social harmony. The wise way of using this power is treating people below in the same way as one would want to be treated by the people above. Decentralizing power is advantageous as the leader will not have to carry the whole burden of responsibilities. Instead, the responsibilities can be shared, thus working towards social harmony. We can see this in a prefects’ board. It is the way the prefects work and act that makes the Head Prefect a good leader. Thus we can see that decentralization is important in dividing responsibilities.
We will now see the types of power.
Power-over: It is the ability to force others to submit to your will regardless of their wishes and is often associated with violence or the threat of violence. This is the most common type in our society.

Power-with: It comes from our ability to listen to, empathize and understand others, and to identify shared beliefs and interests. It comes when we cooperate with others to achieve shared goals. Co-existence and collaborative efforts should be undertaken to deal issues in the society, as combined power always exceeds everything else.

Power-within: It comes from the inner strength associated with courage, conviction and self discipline. For some people, power-within has its source in spirituality.
Conflict resolution should be approached with power-with and within instead of power-over, as the latter usually created negative effects. We should look beyond coercive power and recognize personal and collaborative power. This will point out methods that will produce non-violent constructive solutions for conflicts.
Power can be used for destructive and constructive purposes. When power is understood broadly as ways to influence other people’s behavior we can see new places where individuals and groups are having power, which can help us to use these sources of power to correct imbalances and injustices.


Editor’s note: The above mentioned sources of power would be discussed in the next article.